New York City Aubade

New York City has been overtaken by multi-million dollar high-rise apartments dotting once downtrodden areas like the Lower East Side.

You have to be rich to live here today. Like Patti Smith–one of my favorite artists–told newbies: Forget coming here.

I’m proud that I wasn’t ever guilty of gentrifying a neighborhood by moving into it. Mostly because the neighborhoods I’ve moved into no one else wanted to live in.

What’s the appeal then of living here? Listen to the song “New York Cares” to understand why those of us who fell in love with Manhattan when we were young are committed to staying.

For a mere $10 dollar cover you can attend a poetry reading.

The host of one event told me: “You look good. You have a tan.”

Actually, I wore Lancome Teint Idole foundation in 260 Bisque N. I have ghost skin and don’t understand the appeal of getting a tan. I have ivory skin with a pink undertone. It’s the foundation I bought after getting the latest Sephora makeover.

You have a 5-minute time limit during the open reading. The clapping is thunderous before and after you read.

The featured readers at the poetry events always want you to buy their books.

I showed up in one of my mod skate park outfits: a cotton black-and-white stripe tee shirt dress, black leggings, and hot pink Converse. I wore a pink bandanna as a head wrap.

As I walked down the street before the event a guy who was a stranger who saw me coming said: “I like your head wrap.”

“Thanks.” I smiled at him and walked on by.

This time of year in New York City is magical and unforgettable. Street vendors sell their wares at tables in the West Village. With a little time before ducking in to read I struck up a conversation with a guy selling jewelry.

“Sterling silver. Not nickel. Don’t take it off when you wash your hands.” He referred to a ring I tried on.

That was good to know as I’ve lost too many rings taking them off in public restrooms and forgetting them. Keep your ring on your finger when you’re washing up. Simply avoid the area where the ring is if it’s a stone like turquoise.

Life is too precious and material things are just temporary joys. They won’t last forever, so wash up with your ring on your finger and be okay with this.

“Are you Italian?” The vendor asked after I paid him.

“Si.” I nodded “Have a great weekend.”

After the event I exited into the cool night. My Levi jacket draped across my shoulders as I hailed a cab.

The chapter titles of my memoir Left of the Dial are actually song titles from the early era in my life when the city was a wonderland.

One chapter “Cotton Crown” was misspelled because the actually song title I believe is “Kotton Krown.” The song is by Sonic Youth and it’s the 1980s anthem to New York City.

The song lyrics talk about mystery and chemistry. As a person who takes medication I was always entranced with the idea of taking control of the chemistry.

New York City will forever hold an allure for us rebels, beautiful dreamers, and creative folk drawn to the undiluted pockets of energy on side streets teeming with cafes and restaurants.

Here and there you can still find vestiges of the Vanished New York. They’re harder to find as For Rent signs dot the landscape where mom-and-pop stores used to be.

Yet walking down the street and being cheered on for wearing a head wrap reminds me that it’s true:

Your dreams aren’t ever too crazy here, they’re beautiful and so are you.

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Using Our Voices

You have a voice so use it.

You might feel that you’re different. You might feel that our president is a miracle worker doing the greatest good for our country.

Either way I stand by my assertion that each of us should use our voice to champion what we think is right.

Yes–I take such pride in knowing that a superstar like Ariana Grande tells it like it is. She’s not afraid to lose either fans or money by speaking her mind.

Grande’s fearlessness should instill in everyone the courage to make a difference.

I know that having read the Elle interview I was inspired to join the singer in taking a stand against how those in power use divide-and-conquer tactics to keep Americans from banding together to fight common injustices.

I was motivated to pick up Grande’s baton of bravado and pass it on to readers.

This after the interview revealed that the pop singer aligns with the Black Lives Matter voices.

One day after I wrote in here recently about Eric Garner a news report was published stating his family was still seeking justice four years later for his homicide.

I seem to do the opposite of what other people do.

In a New York Times article last week analyzing the composition of the electorate at the polls in 2016 it was stated that 53 percent of white women voted for the president.

Where did that statistic come from?

I’m convinced along with a friend that Mr. Toupee will win a second term.

For the truth about why his reign is disastrous I will refer you to the Democracy Now news articles.

To remain silent on the things that effect us is to be complicit in the erosion of the human rights and liberties of American citizens.

I’m still obsessed with the latest mascara wand. Yet there comes a time to talk about other things besides my current Diorshow haul.

My goal is to tell readers to join me and Ariana Grande–two proud Italians–in refusing to be silent about the things that matter to you.

It matters to me that real wages are still stagnant even with a booming economy. That workers aren’t getting their fair share of the billion-dollar profits of their employers.

That women are being denied the right to obtain and use birth control.

That Mr. Toupee and his ilk are rolling back efforts to curb climate change.

God is Ariana Grande

ariana grande

I shot this photo on my dining room table with an overhead light fixture. Thus the hologram effect on the singer’s face.

Reading Elle is my secret joy. I quote from the magazine to encourage women blog readers to go out and buy the magazine. You can get it in Rite Aid.

The August 2018 issue of Elle  features Ariana Grande on the cover with this manifesto below her coveted mane: God is a Woman. I beg to differ: God is Ariana Grande.

In the interview with this pop singer superstar it was revealed that Grande is Italian: part Abruzzo; part Sicilian. Though I’m Sicilian too I’m as white-faced as Casper the 1970s TV show ghost.

“You’re a real white girl,” the guy who shot the first photo for my original website told me. “Are you sure you’re Sicilian?”

It makes me proud that Grande is Italian too. Italians are not all dum-dums, racists, and mafioso. With no other group of people is it okay to slander them like is commonly done with Italians. It seems like it’s open season on people with a lot of vowels in their last name.

Ariana Grande has a tattoo that reads in fine print bellissima, or most beautiful. She’s copped to having anxiety. At her concert in Manchester a bomb exploded and her fans were sent running away. Ever the trooper, she returned to Manchester for a benefit concert.

Why I ultimately like Grande is that she doesn’t care about her reputation. I’ll quote this snippet from the Elle interview: “She is loud and proud in her anti-Trumpism and has aligned herself with gun reform and Black Lives Matter.”

You don’t say? She does: “There’s a lot of noise when you say anything about anything. But if I’m not going to say it, what’s the fucking point of being here? Not everyone is going to agree with you, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to shut up and sing my songs. I’m also going to be a human being who cares about other human beings; to be an ally and use my privilege to help educate people.”

As per the interview too: Ariana Grande has been in therapy for more than 10 years.

Did I say Ariana Grande is Italian?

Another Year Older

2018 sephora

I’m 53 now and I’m still here.

Contrary to the myth that everyone with SZ dies 25 years earlier.

Do I look like I’m ready to kick the bucket?

Going to Sicily is on my bucket list of things to do before my hair turns totally silver.

I’ve decided to get a Sephora makeover once a year at this time.

I was told I have a heart-shape face. So if your face is like mine you might have a heart shape face too: wide forehead and prominent cheekbones and narrow chin.

The rocker chick bangs haircut is courtesy of my new hairdresser: an old school Italian lady. I stopped going to my old hair stylist I’d seen for about nine years.

One day last summer I woke up and couldn’t take how my hair had been cut. I tried to wear a hat to my job because it was August.

“No hat indoors. It’s a sign of disrespect.” The supervisor put an end to my bad hair day cover-up.

Every day was a bad hair day. I just refused to get it cut again until the fall.

On the day after Columbus Day I went to the new hairdresser a Sicilian woman told me about. Finally: a great haircut.

This isn’t a matter of world peace or any other kind of injustice in terms of the significance of having had a bad haircut.

Yet I think all women have been there really not liking how their hair stylist has been going cutting their hair at some point.

Plus my haircut is now thirty dollars cheaper.

Paying too much to look like a bald falcon? I think not. Get yourself to a new hairdresser right away if it’s time for a change.

 

A Blanquito In El Barrio

In Memory of Gil Fagiani

blanquito

Poet Extraordinaire and Beautiful Human Being

Gil Fagiani wrote one of the two book reviews on the back cover of Left of the Dial.

I had wanted him to write a book review because one of his own poetry books was titled Serfs of Psychiatry.

That book is an autobiographical account of his earliest job in the mental health field.

A Blanquito in El Barrio graphically conjures his descent into street drug abuse.

Gil is one of the people who lived to tell and was able to stay clean for decades.

He treated me come un figlia.

In his name (as was requested) I’m making a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I urge you to read Blanquito and any other of his books that you can find.

He is the third person I have lost in three years. Each of them to life-ending illnesses.

Our lives are like the song lyrics to “Big Yellow Taxi.” You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. All that remains of paradise in that song was a parking lot.

One day all that will be left of this planet is burnt earth.

It’s time. For days now I’ve been thinking of the quote: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

You and I don’t know how much time we’ll have here. We don’t know how much time we’ll have with our loved ones, friends, and others we’re close to.

Make every day a day when you wake up and choose to love.

There is no other way to live.

One day things could change. Love is a life preserver. Acceptance is a safety net.

Make every encounter with another person a positive one.

Find the good: In life. In other people. In your situation.

Take a cue from Gil Fagiani’s remarkable life:

Fight the good fight. It isn’t over until it’s over. Treat everyone you meet with kindness.

Night of the 7 Fishes

2016-lobster

Un Buon Natale Con Italiani!

This photo was shot with my digital camera on Christmas Eve–the Night of the 7 Fishes in coastal Italian families.

You can read about this tradition in my memoir Left of the Dial.

We are from a town near Naples so we are Neapolitan thus we celebrate the holiday with 7 fish–the lobster is the big attraction.

Years ago when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral website I researched via a simple Google search the impact of culture on a person’s recovery from a mental health challenge.

Trust me I couldn’t find any studies that corroborated the link between culture and recovery. I couldn’t find this for Italians, Hispanics, African Americans, or any other ethnic folk.

You can read more about Italian American Mental Health in the book Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. The book costs $20 and is well worth the splurge.

It was published in November 2013. To this book I contributed a 10-page chapter titled “Recovery is Within Reach.”

Years ago at HealthCentral I did write about the impact of culture on my recovery. I wrote about finding a female Italian American therapist to talk to.

I do think that ethnic identity can have a positive role in helping a person recover.

I stand firm in my assertion that I recovered because of my mother. I recovered because I had the love and support of my close-knit Italian American family.

It’s time to stop judging people. It’s time to stop stereotyping people. We each of us need to see the person first. Not attribute to them a characteristic you think they have just because they’re from a certain ethnic identity.

Which is to say that not all Italians are bigots. A friend of mine who was Sicilian had a woman tell him she couldn’t hang out with him because he was Italian and she was African American. She had always been told to have nothing to do with Italians.

Can you imagine that?

I say: come on over and have some lobster!

Come on over and have some lobster!

Insieme.

We’ll treat you like family.

Buona Pasqua

Buona Pasqua–is Happy Easter in Italian. Though most likely it could be titled Happy Eater.

I went to my cousin’s. Her mother my Aunt and her sister were there. The amount of food could feed a small nation.I knew there would be too much food so I wasn’t worried that I couldn’t eat whatever meat was served–I knew there would be a ton of other food like vegetables. And the antipast’–a banquet before the main meal.

We are Italian, so there was a cheesecake, Russell Stover chocolates, a multitude of cannoli, other pastry, sorbet, chocolate chip cookies…and the list goes on.

It’s all relative…as to who your relatives are…when you are Italian. We consider them as true as blood. An Italian woman I talk to gave me this advice about a guy I like: “Kiss him. You’re Italian. You know how this goes: we’re Italians and we kiss people.”

The spring is coming: beautiful weather to be out and about. The tour guide in Rome told us it’s all “kissy-kissy” when I traveled there.

You turn 50 and think: it’s all about famiglia because you don’t know how much longer you’ll have with them.

I say: honor the parents who gave you birth. Except if there was outright abuse our parents most likely did the best they could. Honor them and protect them and care for them in their old age.

Buona Primavera. A Happy Spring to you!